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Map of Edo Period Japan for "Vagabonds"

 
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tinyaltar
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 2:05 pm    Post subject: Map of Edo Period Japan for "Vagabonds" Reply with quote
Hello again everyone.

I am currently working with cartographer Josephe Vandel of Germany on a project to create a map of Edo period Japan for a tabletop roleplaying game called Vagabonds (see my signature). The actual development diary of this map will be at the Cartographer's Guild, but I am also posting information here.

If any of you here at Samurai Archives are interested in pen&paper roleplaying games, I want to give you the opportunity to tell me which specific locations you would want on a map set broadly in the Edo period. Of course, any locations not on the map still exist, and your characters can travel to wherever you see fit. Nonetheless, if you have any recommendations for notable places that are not immediately obvious, I would like to know. To be clear, "broadly" set in Edo period Japan means that we are not setting the game during a specific year, or even a specific sub-era. Therefore, our illustrative map will be an abstraction of the landscape during this general time period.

Because the development diary of this map is on those other boards, I'd like to bring to this forum a more detailed discussion of interesting/obscure locations related to Edo period Japan. Feel free to also discuss anything regarding the game itself (setting, concept, history ... we can leave "mechanics" for an RPG-specific forum Wink).

You can read about the process to make the map at the link above, but I'll cross-post the intro post here for easy reference:

tinyaltar wrote:
...the map is not a modern, satellite-perfect portrayal of Japan. Instead, it is an attempt to create Japan as citizens under the Tokugawa Shogunate might have seen Japan. Placement of cities and roads, etc. has been key for us, and we deciphered an older script of Japanese (sometimes with a lot of headaches). But all in all, it's been a great experience so far. Additionally, since our game is actually set in an alternate, fantastic version of the Edo period, we wanted to convey a "fantasy" feel, but also one that is intrinsically tied to Japanese mythology, folktales, and aesthetics/Edo period culture.

Josephe Vandel is doing the artwork, and he can elaborate on that. For now, I will give you our progress on the conceptual side:

1.) We started with a map from the Tokyo National Museum historical archives. It is dated from the Edo period.

2.) Josephe traced an outline of the map using a sumi brush stroke. It turned out beautifully. With this outline, Maiko Shioda and I were able to go through and begin deciphering the map itself, finding where things go. This was harder than it seems -- the map is definitely "off" compared to modern representations, or Meiji period colonial representations. Additionally, Japan has a modern history of rerouting rivers. Often, Edo period rivers were in slightly different places than their modern counterparts. We had to account for this. Luckily, we had visited many archives while in Japan and were able to get a few samples.

3.) Because travel is so important to our game, we mapped out the entire Tōkaidō and Nakasendō (two major foot highways during the Edo period). We mapped out every station, but our final map will only include "major" post station settlements. We will also include some minor roads, but not many stations on these roads.

4.) I am in the process of making sheets of Japanese paper (washi) to scan and be used for textures on the map. This is my washi making process, which I have studied now for several years. I will be posting updates on this. We will also be using scans from papers from the makers I know in Japan, since we will also be printing on their paper.

5.) I am also in the process of making color fields by doing mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock printing), which I am also somewhat experienced in. So, I am going to print color fields onto my handmade paper using the same techniques ukiyo-e artists like Hiroshige and Hokusai used. After making these blocks, I will scan and send to Schwarzkreuz, who, like with the washi, will incorporate them into the map.

6.) Maiko, who is an artist from Japan currently working to get her Master's in Fine Art, also happens to be exceptional at calligraphy. She will be doing some Japanese calligraphy for the compass symbols, and will be writing a lot of the names in English (but using sumi brush calligraphy ... and making it kind of intentionally "messy" to capture our "Vagabonds" feel). We are going to scan these and put them on the map as labels.

The final map will come in a digital version, poster version (printed on normal poster paper), and deluxe version, which will be archival-printed on actual handmade washi from a maker/paper studio we know in Japan (large size). Therefore, the map you see below is not the full resolution version. We are also making this an illustrative map, rather than a political map. We hope, in the near future, to make an entire atlas of maps relating to Edo period Japan, including zoomed-in art versions of the major highways, maps of regions, and maps of cities/shrine complexes/etc.


Deciphering this old map has been incredibly fun, frustrating, and enlightening. Oh, and if you want to know about the washi-making process I'm going through for this, check out the Arts forum. Smile





(The first picture is the piece from the Tokyo National Museum archives. The second piece is progress in creating an outline of locations relative to one another, as well as to geographic features [rivers, mountains, bays, and so on] and other historical locales.)
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lordameth
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Poking around your site just a little, this looks like it could be pretty excellent. I've been wanting for some time a good Japan-based RPG that's more based in actual Japanese history, and not set in, you know, Rokugan.

As for some locations I'd suggest including, if you don't think these too obvious, Matsumae, Tsushima, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, and, if you want to push the boundaries a little bit, Pusan and Naha/Shuri. In actual history, as far as I know, no Japanese ever went to Pusan or Naha/Shuri except on official business, but, if you want to push the boundaries a bit, I can imagine a group of PCs somehow working their way into being included in some official group, or stowing away or something.

There's also shipwrecks, and exiles, so, if you wanted to include Sado, Izu Oshima, or some other common exile destinations...
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tinyaltar
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:
Poking around your site just a little, this looks like it could be pretty excellent. I've been wanting for some time a good Japan-based RPG that's more based in actual Japanese history, and not set in, you know, Rokugan.

As for some locations I'd suggest including, if you don't think these too obvious, Matsumae, Tsushima, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, and, if you want to push the boundaries a little bit, Pusan and Naha/Shuri. In actual history, as far as I know, no Japanese ever went to Pusan or Naha/Shuri except on official business, but, if you want to push the boundaries a bit, I can imagine a group of PCs somehow working their way into being included in some official group, or stowing away or something.

There's also shipwrecks, and exiles, so, if you wanted to include Sado, Izu Oshima, or some other common exile destinations...


Excellent suggestions, lordameth! I can tell that you and I see eye-to-eye on this. Smile It's funny -- we seem to share many common interests in both art and gaming.

The inspiration came from that very idea. Several years ago, I was a student in Japan and met fellow roleplayer/artist Maiko Shioda. We have since made this our brainchild. We used to love Rokugan, and have played the hell out of L5R, but we were a little less-than-fulfilled with the "not-Japan" aspect, and the overemphasis on a limited smattering of Japan character tropes. Vagabonds is not meant to compete, but to be different altogether. I think there will always be room for silly, taint-filled Rokugan adventures.

Since that chance meeting, we have gathered a team of like-minded folks to help us out.

The base storyline of Vagabonds includes the fantastic (but not the sort of fantasy seem in Rokugan), but if a GM/group of players wants to play it without fantasy, that is certainly possible. They can also just dial it down, making it extremely secretive. Our own roleplaying group has had a great time in many different variations -- most recently, playing as sort of "paranormal investigators" of the Edo period, being followed by agents of the Shogun.

The little bit of the map I posted was just to show the Tokaido and Nakasendo (and just an outline, at that -- wait until you see the artwork our cartographer can do!). We definitely have all of Edo period Japan, from Matsumae/Ezo to Yakushima (at the time called Yakunoshima), and we even have a bit of the Korean peninsula on there. Including Pusan is a terrific idea.

As for exile islands: plenty of those, too. That is very important. A character can actually be an escaped exile. Keep the locations coming!
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